Thu 13 Jun 2019 | 09:31

Toulouse's third-choice hooker a potential World Cup bolter

Toulouse's third-choice hooker a potential World Cup bolter
Thu 13 Jun 2019 | 09:31
Toulouse's third-choice hooker a potential World Cup bolter
SHARE

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: When Toulouse’s Peato Mauvaka was growing up on the remote Pacific island of the French overseas territory of New Caledonia his dream was to head to France to play volleyball.

Eight years on from making the 20 000km trip from his home city of Noumea for the first time as a 14-year-old, the mobile hooker is set to start for the club in Saturday’s Top 14 Final as the 19-time champions play Clermont in Paris.

“In my neighbourhood, some went to France to study, others for volleyball. Me, I hoped to go there for volleyball. When they [Toulouse] recruited me, I said yes immediately,” Mauvaka said.

“My Mum refused it. She thought I was too young. She wanted me to stay with her as I had experienced problems at school since a young age,” he added.

It was only as a teenager Mauvaka, who has featured 23 times for Toulouse this season, swapped the round ball and net for the oval ball and posts.

His father pushed him to watch the World Cup in 2011 and to try the sport and was seen by a Toulouse scout a few months later, Abraham Tolofua, looking for talented backs for French rugby’s most decorated side.

Tolofua turned out to be the uncle of fellow New Caledonian and professional players in Toulouse back-rower Selevasio and Saracens hooker Christopher and spotted Mauvaka and signed him to their academy as a centre.

Mauvaka would head home every summer but his relaxed approach to his diet when on the island had an impact on his position on the field in France.

“Every year when I went back to New Caledonia, I put on 10kg. The more my weight went up, the more the number on my back went down. I played in the back row then hooker,” he said.

“Now I love playing hooker. It’s quite similar to the back row apart from at scrum-time when you’re in front,” he added.

Story continues below:

His athletic grounding and rugby roots which he started as a centre have helped him settle as part of a Toulouse outfit who have scored a record amount of tries in a Top 14 season.

“The way Toulouse play suits me well, because the ball moves more. I prefer that than looking for contact all the time,” he said.

After suffering from numerous injuries last year, which restricted him to only a single appearance during the campaign, his weight issues returned and forced himself to a diet of salad during pre-season to lose 22kg.

“When I came back I felt big. 137 kg, too fat! I had been hard on my body, I had to lose weight,” he said.

The club’s third choice hooker has been thrust into the limelight since the Six Nations due to long-term knee injuries to Italy’s Leonardo Ghiraldini and France’s Julien Marchand.

His increased gametime and impressive performances as Toulouse reached the European Champions Cup semifinals and this weekend’s league final has seen him included in Les Bleus’ preliminary extended 65-man World Cup squad.

The youngster has an outside chance of being named by head coach Jacques Brunel on June 19 for the tournament in Japan with the third slot at hooker seemingly available behind captain Guilhem Guirado and Camille Chat.

“Obviously now, I’m thinking about Japan,” he said.

Whatever happens on Saturday and subsequently on Tuesday Mauvaka should hold no regrets, despite the long road to get to France it could be just a matter of time until he plays for the national team.

PV: 353


Toulouse's Third-choice Hooker A Potential World Cup Bolter - France | Rugby365